Asian Markets Higher On Fed Comments

Asian stock markets are higher on Thursday, after the Fed announced its widely expected decision to maintain ultra-easy policy. The Fed left interest rates and asset purchases unchanged even as the central bank upgraded its assessment of the U.S. economy. The cues overnight from Wall Street were weak. Asian markets closed mostly higher on Wednesday.

Investors are also awaiting U.S. President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress for clues on further stimulus measures, which may aid in speeding up the global economic rebound from the pandemic.

However, markets in the region continue to be tense and cautious amid the continuing surge in coronavirus cases in the region and possibility of coronavirus-related lockdowns in some markets.

The Australian stock market is marginally higher on Thursday, extending the gains of the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just off its 14-month highs below the 7,100 level, after the Fed upgraded its assessment of the U.S. economy but maintained its ultra-easy monetary policy as widely expected. The market is primarily boosted by gold miners, technology and energy stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 26.70 points or 0.38 percent to 7,091.40, after touching a near 14-month high of 7,093.40 in early deals. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 31.30 points or 0.43 percent to 7,351.30. Australian markets ended modestly higher on Wednesday.

Among major miners, BHP Group is gaining almost 1 percent, while Rio Tinto is edging down 0.2 percent and Fortescue Metals is losing almost 2 percent after reporting weaker than expected quarterly results.

Oil stocks are higher after crude oil prices climbed overnight to a six-week high. Oil Search is gaining more than 1 percent, while Beach Energy, Woodside Petroleum and Santos are adding almost 1 percent each.

Among Tech stocks, Appen is losing almost 1 percent, while Afterpay is gaining more than 1 percent and WiseTech Global is up almost 1 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac is flat, while ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank are edging down 0.2 percent each. National Australia Bank is losing 0.5 percent.

Gold miners are higher after gold prices climbed. Evolution Mining is gaining more than 2 percent and Gold Road Resources is adding almost 3 percent, while Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources are up almost 2 percent each. Resolute Mining is rising almost 4 percent.

Shares in Woolworths are down more than 3 percent after the grocery giant reported weaker-than-expected third-quarter financial results. It also cancelled the controversial plan for a Darwin Dan Murphy’s store near a dry Aboriginal community at Darwin Airport.

In economic news, export prices in Australia jumped 11.2 percent on quarter in the first quarter of 2021, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday – after climbing 5.5 percent in the fourth quarter. Import prices were up 0.2 percent on quarter after sinking 1.0 percent in the fourth quarter and the first growth in import prices since the fourth quarter of 2019. On a yearly basis, export prices gained 8.6 percent and import prices fell 6.2 percent as the exchange rate had a downward effect on prices.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.779 on Thursday.

The Japanese stock market is closed for Showa Day on Thursday. Japanese stocks closed marginally higher on Wednesday.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the higher 108 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, Shanghai and Hong Kong are all advancing between 0.2 and 0.9 percent each. The market in Malaysia is closed for Nuzul Al’Quran.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Wednesday, extending the lackluster performance seen in the previous session. The major averages once again spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

The major averages eventually ended the day modestly lower. The Dow slid 164.55 points or 0.5 percent to 33,820.38, the Nasdaq dipped 39.19 points or 0.3 percent to 14,051.03 and the S&P 500 edged down 3.54 points or 0.1 percent to 4,183.18 after reaching a record intraday high.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index climbed by 0.5 percent, the German DAX Index and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index both edged up by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil prices moved higher Wednesday amid hopes energy demand will increase in the near future. A much smaller than expected increase in U.S. crude inventories last week also contributed to oil’s advance. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for June ended higher by $0.92 or 1.5 percent at a six-week high of $63.86 a barrel.

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